The old secular cross? High court to consider issue of church-state separation

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If the court reaches the constitutional issues at hand, all sides agree it could provide clarity to the court's blurry rules on church-and-state separations. It could also carry important implications for the fate of war memorials around the country that feature religious imagery -- the Argonne Cross in Arlington National Cemetery, for instance, or the Memorial Peace Cross in Bladensburg.

The Mojave cross's protectors, which include veterans groups and the federal government, say the symbol is a historic, secular tribute; its original plaque from the 1930s said it was erected to honor "the dead of all wars." They argue that Congress has taken the steps to distance itself from any appearance of endorsing a religious display.

But the American Civil Liberties Union, Jewish and Muslim veterans, and others say government actions have only deepened the problem. In an effort to avoid the lower courts' rulings that it must come down, Congress has designated the site the country's only official national memorial to the dead of World War I, elevating it to an exclusive group of national treasures that includes the Washington Monument and Mount Rushmore.

Congress's actions ensures that "the cross necessarily will reflect continued government association with the preeminent symbol of Christianity," the ACLU said.

It seems an improbable importance for this piece of desert land, where temperatures regularly hit three digits, an hour can go by without a passing car and somewhere nearby is likely to be a Mojave Green, the desert's own highly lethal variety of rattlesnake.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesChurch/State MattersReligion & Culture

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Posted September 30, 2009 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]
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